Disclaimer: I don’t own Highlander or Diagnosis Murder or any of the characters of Highlander or Diagnosis Murder, and I’m not making any money out of them, I’m just doing this for the love of the show and the love of Richie. All rights and ownership belong to whichever jammy git actually owns them, I’m just trying them on for size and I promise to return them good as new.
Warning: This story contains a non-graphic same sex relationship, so don’t read it if that sort of thing offends. There is also a bit of rude language, but nothing too bad.2. Lessons
Mark stared into the glass of whiskey his old friend had handed him, not really seeing the amber liquid sloshing around in the glass, too lost in his own thoughts, his own guilt. “How could I get it so wrong?” he said to his companion, “I never dreamed that he would react like that. Nobody has ever done that before.”
“It was going to happen sooner or later Mark,” came the reply, “You keep confronting murderers the way you do, eventually one of them was going to take a shot at you.”
“Yes I know, but why did Jesse…” he trailed off, wracked by sobs of guilt.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that if I were you.”
Mark looked up, his friend was smiling, and it didn’t make any sense. “What do you mean?” Comprehension suddenly dawned on Mark as he stared at the broadening grin on the face of his oldest friend. “Do you mean…”
Duncan beamed and nodded as he glanced at his watch. “In actual fact, I think we should be getting along to the morgue about now.” He grabbed his coat and guided Mark to his feet.
“B..but why couldn’t you tell me? Why did you let me go through all that?”
“I’m sorry Mark, but it was necessary that the authorities believe this to be genuine so that no questions would be asked. If I could have avoided this I would, but there were too many witnesses.” Mark nodded in understanding. He could see the difficult position MacLeod was in, but he still wasn’t happy about it. They drove the rest of the way to Community General in silence.
Amanda Bentley wiped back a tear as she rolled out the drawer that contained the body of her dear friend. Jesse could be so brave, stupidly so sometimes, and it was not really a surprise to her that he would one day end up on her table. No surprise, but it still broke her heart as she pulled back the sheet and prepared to make the Y-incision. Her hand paused over his chest, holding a scalpel which suddenly seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. Then, just as she steeled herself to make the cut, Jesse’s eyes snapped open and he inhaled, a great loud gasp of air as though he had been drowning.
At the sound of the scream, Duncan and Mark doubled their pace and reached the coroner’s room in time to see a terrified Amanda backing into a corner, pointing her scalpel in the direction of a very bemused looking Jesse, who was now sitting up on the table, trying to maintain his decency with the sheet. He looked toward the door, as if there was something attracting his attention, until he locked his gaze on Duncan, which seemed to only increase his confusion. He turned his attention to Mark, and asked “Um, …what am I doing here? And what happened after the house? I thought that I was…” He reached down to his chest, to the blood and rapidly healing bullet hole in his chest. “I don’t understand.”
Mark stared at his young friend with both awe and sympathy, but for once he didn’t have the answers. Well, some of them, but there was somebody far better positioned to explain. He looked to Duncan, who was already making his way toward the young doctor, and headed toward Amanda to try and calm her.
“I think the best thing is to calm everyone down and get them to your house.” said Duncan, “The explanations can wait till we’re there.”
“Ok, but I want to call Steve. He’s best friends with Jess, and I don’t think I could lie to my son about this.” Duncan nodded in agreement and tossed some scrubs to Jesse who put them on. They walked out of the hospital via a service entrance to avoid the cameras, Amanda being held up by Mark and a determination to find out what the hell was going on here. She had a million questions for the strange Scot, who appeared to hold the answers to this impossible situation, but he had said he would explain when they reached Mark’s, so until then she would bite her lip.
Mark made a quick call on his cell, asking Steve to meet them at home and they made their way back to the beach house.
Duncan ushered Jesse into the bedroom so that Mark could get Steve and Amanda comfortable and explain before Steve saw Jesse. Duncan admired how calmly the young man was taking everything. Aside from occasionally muttering “This isn’t possible, I was shot.” the doctor was amazingly cooperative. He showed self-assurance that came from years of knowing that Mark would provide him with the answers to everything. Duncan smiled at that, the young man reminded him a lot of Richie, in many respects. Perhaps that was partly why he decided to hang around when he first sensed the boy’s Pre-Immortal status.
“Whatever’s happened to me, it’s happened to you too hasn’t it? I… felt something when you walked into Amanda’s office.” Duncan started at Jesse’s words, damn the kid was smart, not even Richie had cottoned on to the ‘Buzz’ so fast, and he had known about Immortals before he died.
“Yes Jesse, we have a connection. That was what you felt. There is a lot you need to know.” Gently, Duncan began to explain everything to Jesse, about Immortals, about the Game, and about the Rules.
At the same time, a similar conversation was taking place on the other side of the wall. Mark left out the details of the Game, he didn’t think that a cop and a doctor would react too well to the idea of people going round with swords chopping each others heads off, but he gave them enough information to try and understand what was going on. The pair’s reaction was expected.
“This is a joke right?” said Amanda.
“Not a very good one either Dad.”
“No it isn’t a joke Steve. You know I wouldn’t joke about something like this. You both saw Jess take a bullet to the chest, and Amanda, you saw him wake up in the morgue. I’m telling the truth.”
“It is the truth Steve.” At the sound of his friend’s voice, Steve turned, amazed, to see Jesse standing in the bedroom doorway. “I can’t quite accept it all myself yet but it is what is happening.” He walked over to them and picked up a letter opener that was on the coffee table. Unsure of his intentions, Steve became alert, and when Jesse pulled the blade across his palm he leapt to his feet. He started toward him, but felt the gentle grip of his father on his shoulder.
“Wait Steve.” Steve stood, mouth open, as he watched blue lightning dance across the cut and the wound heal itself. Jesse wiped the blood from his palm and there was no sign he had ever been injured.
“This is impossible.” Amanda was barely audible.
“I understand your confusion Amanda. It’s hard for someone trained in medicine to accept all of this.” Mark said, ever the father, “I found out about Duncan over thirty years ago, and I still have trouble with it all.”
Shocked by this latest revelation, everyone in the room looked, first at Mark and then at his enigmatic friend.
“I am Duncan MacCleod of the clan MacCleod, and I was born in Scotland four hundred years ago.” He announced, somewhat melodramatically.
“Four hundred years?” Jesse whispered, as he collapsed back into the chair. Duncan smiled, obviously the enormity of what Immortality meant had just hit home.
A few hours later, Mac took Jesse back to his place to pack up his things. His death had been witnessed by too many people, and unfortunately the police had an official record of it. Jesse would have to leave California, at least for a while. That suited Duncan, he was missing Seacouver and he was sure that Richie would be missing him. Besides which, he mused as he put the last of Jesse’s things in the trunk of his T’bird, he was missing his protégé too. And Dawson and Methos, he hastily added. It was the most time Duncan had been apart from Richie since he had found the Scot at the monastery, and they hadn’t really discussed the recent changes in their relationship, changes Duncan wasn’t sure he was completely comfortable with.
It had taken a while to convince Steve and Amanda that Jesse needed to leave, but eventually they saw the sense of it. Luckily, given their jobs, covering up the missing body wouldn’t be difficult. Jesse had been a little harder to convince, on many levels. Although he had enough sense not to discuss the Game in front of his friends, Duncan knew that was the hardest part for Jesse to come to terms with. After all, he had spent his entire professional life so far saving lives and now, if he wanted to survive, he’d need to learn to end them.
As if he’d been reading his mind, Jesse spoke, “Mac, I know you said I need to learn the Game to survive, and I will, but what if all the teaching is for nothing? What if, when it comes down to it, I can’t do it?” Duncan examined Jesse, perhaps it would be good for him to have a chat with Methos when they got to Seacouver. After all, the ancient immortal had spent a long time as a doctor, trying to make amends for his bloodthirsty youth.
“You don’t change when you become Immortal, Jess.” The same line he had used with Richie only a few years ago, “Some fights you can walk away from, some you can win and spare your competitor, but sometimes, if you want to live, you have to take their head. You won’t know until that moment comes whether you are capable of doing it or not. But it doesn’t make you a bad person, or any less of a good person.”
“Yeah, well I’m still not comfortable with it Mac.” Duncan shook his head and laughed inside, so much like Richie. He figured the two were going to get on really well.
Richie felt the Buzz and smiled. He knew it was Mac; he’d called about an hour ago to let him know that he was at a gas station just out of town and he’d be back with his new student soon. He left the office and walked toward the door as Mac and Jesse walked through it. Richie smiled and extended his hand toward the young stranger. “Hi, I’m Richie, you must be Jesse right? Good to meet you.” Jesse shook the proffered hand and mumbled back his greeting.
“Richie was my most recent student” explained Duncan, “Still is in a lot of ways.” Richie laughed at the lame joke, same old Mac, and playfully punched his mentor before giving him a much more sincere hug. As he hugged him back, all Duncan’s doubts about their relationship vanished, he desperately wanted to grab him and kiss him, but the dojo was full of customers and their love was private.
“Welcome home Mac.” After a pause he turned back to the newcomer “So I think Mac wants you to crash with me for a while until you can get a place of your own.” Mac wondered briefly wondered just how well the two would hit it off. Duncan wasn’t too concerned, as Richie really only kept an apartment as a show of independence and somewhere to go if Amanda was in town. Most nights he stayed with Mac. Plus, he berated himself, Richie wasn’t interested in men generally, just Duncan. The three walked towards the elevator to Mac’s apartment.
“O wow, I never even thought about stuff like that. How can I get money? If everyone thinks I’m dead, I can’t access my bank accounts and I can’t practice medicine. I don’t know how to do anything else.” They entered the elevator and Mac pulled down the door, giving them some privacy as the elevator slowly rattled up to its destination.
“Don’t worry about that for now Jesse. We’ll set you up with a new identity as your own cousin. Then you can get Mark or Steve to ‘discover’ a will naming you as the beneficiary and you’ll get your money. I’ve got some contacts who can set you up with new documents, including a license to practice medicine. But for now your life is going to be in Richie’s flat or training here. You have a lot to learn.”
The next few weeks and months passed in a blur for Jesse. His days were spent learning how to wield a katana, the sword Duncan had chosen for him. He felt it was the best option to compensate for Jesse’s short, slender frame. Most of the time he learnt martial arts from Duncan, but he also sparred with Richie on occasion, much to the Scot’s amusement, leading him to comment once that it was “the blind leading the blind”. That was a cruel joke, and he knew it. In the intervening decade since he had come back from the grave Richie had become adept at all of the disciplines he had taught him, and Jesse was a fast learner. Beneath the soft California doctor exterior beat the heart of a warrior, and Duncan knew that when the time came he would do what was needed. He walked towards the mat where the two were fencing together.
“Okay tough guys, that’s enough for one day. How about you hit the showers and then we’ll hit Joe’s for a beer?”
“Sounds good to me Mac. Jesse?”
“Yeah, great. It’ll be good to see somewhere else, even if it’s another room.”
“Heh. Look, I know these last few months have been tough on you, but it needed to be done. Your new papers are sorted, you have your money now, and your training is coming along well. I think you can start looking for your own place, and maybe for a job too. Mark said he’d write you some references. The name would be fake but the sentiment wouldn’t.”
“Really Mac? That’s great. That calls for a celebration.” The young doctor clapped his fellow Immortals on the back and headed for the changing room. Duncan smiled as he watched him go. Richie looked at him, enquiring.
“What are you grinning about?”
“There’s a nice surprise waiting for him at Joe’s. So go! Shoo!”
Richie laughed and headed after Jesse.
As the three Immortals walked into Joe’s Bar, Jesse examined his surroundings. He liked the atmosphere of the place, but he couldn’t help comparing it to his own Barbecue Bob’s. He felt a pang of homesickness at the thought, so he wasn’t surprised to see a guy who looked remarkably like Steve sitting at a table. Just my mind playing tricks, he thought. Except ‘Steve’ seemed to be sitting next to Mark and Amanda. And the three of them seemed to be walking toward their table.
“Surprise!” said a delighted Amanda. Jesse looked at his two fellow Immortals who were both beaming conspiratorially. He laughed and hugged each of his friends in turn. Steve bought a round of beers and they began to talk.
After an hour or so, Duncan reached over to Richie and took hold of his knee. At first, he didn’t get the hint, and began caressing Mac’s arm. So Mac pinched him. When Richie gave him a filthy look, Duncan rolled his eyes toward the door in an exaggerated manner. Richie winked back in an equally exaggerated way and then gave a ridiculously theatrical yawn. Luckily the others were too busy talking to notice his stupidity.
“Well, I’m bushed. We’d better get going Mac.”
“Yeah you’re right Rich; we’ve got that…that thing.” He stood up, followed in short order by Richie.
“Yeah, that thing.” The two wanted to give Jesse time with his friends, but they also wanted some time together. Alone time had been in precious short supply since Duncan returned with Jesse.
“Oh, well give me a sec guys and I’ll come with.” Jesse seemed reluctant to leave.
“No, no, I’m sure you all have lots to discuss. Goodnight everyone.” Richie and Mac waved goodbye to Joe as they headed out of the bar. Mark stretched and glanced at his watch.
“My goodness, is that the time? Far too late for someone of my age to be out. Amanda, didn’t you want to call the boys before they went to bed?” Mark said as he stood up.
“Oh, yes, I did. We should go back to the hotel. Jesse, it’s good to see you, we’ll spend the day together tomorrow okay? Goodnight.” She kissed him on the forehead and the two left the bar.
“Was it something I said?”
“Don’t worry about it Jess, I told them I needed to speak to you alone.” The two continued to drink another two rounds, chatting about nothing in particular until Steve had enough Dutch courage to say what he had come to say. “I’ve really missed you Jesse.”
“Aw, I’ve missed you too Steve.”
“No Jess, I’ve really missed you.” He was staring at Jesse just a little too intently.
“Huh? Oh! O wow, um Steve…woah.” It was one of the few times that Jesse had been speechless. “I never thought. Look, there’s more to this Immortal stuff. It might change how you feel.” So Jesse filled Steve in on the Game. He was understandably lost for words, so they both agreed to think on what the other had said and discuss it the next evening. They parted outside the club, each walking in a different direction. Jesse walked in a daze, in turmoil over everything that had just happened. He certainly loved Steve, but did he love Steve? His thoughts were interrupted by the presence of another Immortal.
“Mac? Richie?” No answer. He drew his sword from inside his coat and tracked the source of the Buzz down an alleyway. The Immortal was a woman who looked in her late twenties, although for all Jesse knew she was far older. She stood in a fighting stance, a rapier in her hand.
“About time, newbie. Let’s go.”
“Oh, no. Look, we don’t have to do this. I don’t want to fight you.”
“Oh, but I want to fight you. I’ve been waiting for weeks for a chance to get you away from your teachers. Think of me as an Immortal chicken hawk.”
“You’re a head hunter. Oh great.” Reluctantly Jesse bowed to his opponent and placed himself in a defensive stance. The fight lasted what seemed forever to Jesse. They were evenly matched, each parrying the other’s attack, until the woman slipped on a discarded burger wrapper. She stumbled, dropping her sword with a clatter that echoed in the narrow alleyway. Jesse brought his blade close to her throat, poised to deliver the final blow.
“Do it!” screamed the woman. “There can be only one!”
“No. I won’t do it. Walk away and it ends here.” The woman spat at Jesse in contempt, but he withdrew, and turned to walk away. The woman leapt to her feet, grabbing her sword and lunging at Jesse in one swift move. If she hadn’t yelled as she lunged, Jesse would have lost his head. Instead he had enough warning. He dropped and rolled, instinctively bringing his sword round to parry the next blow. Except there wasn’t one. Instead, there were two soft thuds and a clatter as head, body and sword hit the ground. “Oh shit. Oh shit. What have I done?” He started to back away, but before he had gone more than a few paces, lightning began to dance around the body and a strange mist was rolling down the alley from the body toward Jesse. He was hit by a bolt of lightning and all rational thought left him. All there was in that moment was the power and the pain as the woman’s Quickening forced itself into him. He didn’t even notice as the world around him exploded into flame. He screamed for what seemed an eternity, as the raw energy stabbed into him again and again, until it finally abated, and he dropped to his knees, exhausted.
Duncan and Richie were lounging on Mac’s couch, wrapped in each other’s arms as they played chess, but they moved apart as they each felt the Buzz, wary of the visitor. As the elevator began to rattle upwards, they relaxed slightly, knowing it must be Amanda or Jesse, but they still changed their positions as neither one knew about their relationship and they weren’t ready for questions yet.
The door opened and a dishevelled Jesse staggered out. With a knowing glance at each other, the other two Immortals rose to their feet and helped Jesse into a chair.
“Who was it?” asked Duncan. Jesse looked at him.
“I…I don’t know. O my god, I just killed someone and I don’t even know her name.” Richie looked at him sympathetically and laid a hand on his shoulder as Duncan went to the liquor cabinet and poured Jess a medicinal whiskey. Jesse gratefully accepted the drink. “Thanks. I didn’t have a choice. I beat her, and I tried to walk away, but she came at me again. It was instinct, I… I didn’t even mean to do it… I just swung to defend myself and…and…” Duncan nodded in understanding. The poor boy was obviously in shock, which was no surprise really, given he had just had his first Quickening.
“You did what was necessary. You had no choice.” Richie nodded in agreement. Jesse nodded too, but more reluctantly.
“I’m not happy about it though. I took that woman’s life, it goes against everything I believe in.”
“Do you think Mac and I are happy about taking heads? Do we look like the type who enjoy it? You do what you have to do to survive.”
“Richie’s right Jess. I told you when the time came, you would know whether you could do it or not. You don’t have to fight and you don’t always have to take their head. But sometimes you do. I trust you to make the right decisions.” Jesse shook his head. He accepted what Duncan was telling him, but it didn’t help. They talked long into the wee small hours, but nothing that Mac or Richie could say helped to ease Jesse’s conscience. Around sunrise, Mac made a call to Methos and asked him to come over. He may have a knack of pretending that he hadn’t learned anything beyond self-preservation in five millennia, but Duncan knew that if anyone knew about squaring the Immortal life with being a doctor, it was the former Horseman.
Always one to do things in his own sweet time, Methos strolled into the dojo a couple of hours later. He disappeared downstairs with Jesse, leaving Duncan and Richie making breakfast. They went into the office and sat down.
“I don’t see what you can say that Mac and Richie haven’t already tried.”
“How about I understand?”
“How can you understand Adam? You’re not a doctor.”
“Yes I am. I was a physician before this country was even discovered by Europeans.” Jesse looked at him, assessing him anew. He admitted he didn’t know much about Immortals, but all the older ones he knew seemed so uptight that he assumed the ever casual Adam Pierson wasn’t much older than he looked. “I am older than you think. How old is something only a few know, and I’m afraid I don’t know you well enough to let go of that little secret. All you need to know is that I have spent centuries healing the sick in one guise or another.”
“So how can you stand taking heads?”
“You do what you must to…”
“To survive. Yeah, I know. But doctors swear an oath Adam, first do no harm. Self-preservation shouldn’t overrule that.” Methos nearly said, “you want to know about Hippocrates? I knew him and he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be you know.” But he bit his tongue, thinking it would reveal more than he wanted to. Instead he said,
“During the Korean War, I was a medic with a MASH unit. Not a surgeon, I didn’t have the paperwork to operate as an MD, but a field medic. Patients started dropping like flies and nobody could figure out what the hell was wrong with them. Not until I suggested they test for bubonic plague. None of the doctors knew what to look for; they had never seen it before. I had. The first time around.”
“So you mean that if you hadn’t stayed alive, all those men would have died.” At that moment Richie and Duncan entered the room, carrying breakfast.
“Yes, them and countless others I have saved, more than any mortal doctor could. If you use your Immortality to do some good, then it keeps the balance sheet in check. The Boy Scout here does it his way, he’s a warrior, always has been, so he defends honour and justice, helps the weak and innocent by taking the heads of evil immortals who prey on them. We do things our way. It’s not about winning the Game, and it’s not about staying alive, it’s about living, and living well.” Suddenly, the muffled sound of a Queen track interrupted the conversation. Methos looked abashed. “Sorry, I thought I switched it off.” Methos said as he pulled a cell phone from his pocket.
“You have a cell?” Mac said, incredulously.
“Well it is the twenty-first century Highlander.” He flipped the phone open and answered. “Adam Pierson…Daniel! Long time no hear stranger! Where have you been hiding?...yup…uh huh….well I must say you’ve peaked my curiosity, you haven’t given a lecture in years. Can I bring some friends?...Great, then I’ll see you then.” He hung up and looked at Mac and Richie “How do you fancy a trip to Colorado Springs?” The L World will continue in Part 3: Leading Separate Lives